Deeper coal seam slows miners
Construction of a new ventilation shaft and harder mining conditions are slowing down production at the Huntly East underground coalmine.
Huntly East Mine recorded a 10 per cent drop in productivity to 336,000 tonnes of extracted coal compared with the same time last year, and Huntly East mine manager Paul Hunt said it was a result of mining deeper.
"A year or two ago we were mining at 200 metres depth and now we are mining in 300m depth, which does translate into more difficult mining conditions."
He said the coal in Huntly East mine got deeper as it ran further north and workers were spending more time supporting the mine to ensure its stability.
"The actual hard mining conditions mean that we have been 10 per cent under performance, and that's a result of being a bit slower and the conditions being a bit more arduous than we thought they would be."
The mine has the capacity to produce 600,000 tonnes of coal but while construction of the ventilation shaft is taking place the mine cannot operate to full capacity.
"The ventilation shaft is being constructed at the moment and we are a little bit constrained until such time as we get it built," Mr Hunt said.
Huntly East has lost several workers to the Australian mining industry in the past but the rate of departures has declined and Solid Energy has been recruiting new staff to fill the spaces left by experienced miners.
Mr Hunt expects a turnaround in fortunes next year when the ventilation shaft is commissioned and he anticipates a leap in productivity.
"As soon as we get it built we have actually got sufficient men to immediately increase our production by 21 per cent," he said.
Excavation of the shaft has passed the 80m mark and will continue to the mine 300m below ground.
Phase one of the ventilation shaft is due to be completed early next year and phase two, the installation of the fan, is scheduled for completion mid-way through next year.
"Part of the timing for when you do a shaft is actually when you need the shaft.
"It has got to be in the right location in the mine to serve all of the workings, and we are only just approaching that area now. We will be eagerly awaiting its delivery and it is on target, as I understand," Mr Hunt said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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